Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Quito Too

At the Equator, "Mitad del Mundo", just north of Quito. I missed the equator the first time and had to go back. I expected to see some big stripe or something. (Note the triangular alignment of three spherical orbs.)

11:00 p.m.

Car alarms represent a horrible addition to city life. I think they might do me in. As they're going down the street, some drivers here set off the alarm just to attract attention! I'm about to give up on the human race.

I was looking at coins here. For their age, they seem remarkably worn. 2000 "Sacagawea" dollars (the same that we use in the U.S.) look like they're twenty-five years old. This must be a high-velocity cash economy.

At about 2:30, I headed out to "Mitad del Mundo", one of the equator monuments in Ecuador. There had been cloud cover much of the day, so I wasn't sure what I'd run into. The monument is a surprisingly short distance from Quito: maybe 15 miles.

Wasn't quite prepared to find an amusement park. Without actually entering the grounds, I was able to get a photo taken of me and the bike. Also posed for one shot "reading" the "Kenwood Press". As part of a little community tradition, I'll send a copy home. Drove up to a nearby crater, but it was completely engulfed in cloud. "Well, there it is. Somewhere out there," (staring into the mist.)

But I was finally getting into gear, and looked for something else to go see. Someone told me about the "TelefériQo", an aerial tram that takes one to the top of a mountain for a great panorama of Quito. It took a lot of hit and miss, mostly miss, to locate the entrance to this concession. Another amusement park. Bought an "express" ticket for $7 versus the $4 regular price, buying me the privilege to cut ahead of many less fortunate. The tram takes you up Cruz Loma, part of the Pichinchan Volcano, to the 4,100-meter level (about 13,500 feet.) Rode up with a family from Ecuador who now live in Anaheim, California.

I hadn't even considered that it might be cold up there: it was probably in the low 40s and windy. Very brisk indeed! At the summit, we were just beneath the cloud ceiling. Signs warn of the altitude and to avoid exerting. It's definitely taxing. All I can think of is those who climb real mountains, twice this elevation. It's inconceivable to me, enduring such conditions, and carrying gear besides.

From about 13,500 feet, North Quito spreads below Cruz Loma, part of the Pichinchan Volcano. The aerial tram, "TelefériQo" can be seen climbing to the right.

Another angle from Cruz Loma.

After wandering the slopes and taking in the view from several angles, retired to a small coffee shop for a hot beverage, followed by a bratwurst at a separate concession.

In line for the ride down, I met "Lisa" and "Carmen", mother and daughter, from Newton, Massachusetts. Lisa is studying abroad for a semester here in Quito, as part of her degree program at Soka University. Hearing about the program, I thought "this is something that might interest Jessica!"

Made another attempt to connect with Anne, cruising into old town. Much quieter in this quarter tonight. It was actually kind of pleasant wandering the old narrow streets. No luck though: she was out again.

Found a new internet cafe about two miles from the hotel. Parked in front of a little shop that sells pizza and burgers. The owner said I could park there, but then joked that I had to come inside. I did. Bought a beer, 80 cents for a 20-ounce bottle. The internet cafe offered a little better environment, though the owner's residence was in the back of the store, and the baby crying added a bit of an edge (along with all the video games being played.) Worked until 10;00. Stopped in at the pizza shop and, for $1, bought a giant slice to take back to the hotel. His pizza was just like New York!

Back at the hotel, I turned on "Voice of America" TV again and got to watch a State Department briefing, the spokesman basically playing a game with the press. I watched for nearly an hour, and heard virtually no content, yet it was a remarkable study of lying, evasion and deception. Not the criminal kind, but the type to which we're all prone. I somehow expected a higher standard of conduct from a person in such a position.

Sitting in bed, munching on pizza and watching TV. I might as well be home!

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